US President Joe Biden signed a series of executive orders to launch his administration, including a decision to rejoin the Paris climate accord and a mask mandate for all federal buildings.
The orders included keeping the United States in the World Health Organization, ending the ban on entries from mostly Muslim-majority countries, bolstering environmental protections and strengthening the fight against Covid-19.
Also among the directives was a halt to construction of the wall on the US-Mexico border, and efforts to expand diversity and equality for minority groups in the federal government.
The orders were aimed at reversing decisions by his predecessor Donald Trump and setting a clear policy path for Biden’s new administration, just hours after he was sworn in as president.
“Some of things we are going to be doing are going to be bold,” he said in the Oval Office.
“We are going to combat climate change in a way we have not done so far,” Mr Biden said of returning to the Paris agreement, a treaty signed by most nations in 2016 to limit global warming.
He said his actions on the Covid-19 pandemic, which has claimed 400,000 American lives, would help change the course of the crisis.
His return to the Paris Agreement, which the United States joined Barack Obama was president and Mr Biden vice president, was lauded by other leaders.
“Welcome back,” said French President Emmanuel Macron.
“We are together. We will be stronger to face the challenges of our time. Stronger to build our future. Stronger to protect our planet.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also welcomed the move, saying it was a large step for the leading producers of global carbon pollution.
“But there is a very long way to go,” he said in a statement.
“We look forward to the leadership of United States in accelerating global efforts towards net zero” emissions, he said, calling for “ambitious” new targets for 2030 and expanded climate finance.
Mr Biden’s climate envoy John Kerry hailed the move as a boon for “America’s credibility and commitment – setting a floor, not a ceiling, for our climate leadership.”
Mr Biden issued a sweeping order tackling climate change, including revoking the presidential permit granted to the contentious Keystone XL oil pipeline.
The Day One plans were just the start of a flurry of executive actions Mr Biden would take soon after entering office,said his press secretary, Jen Psaki.
“In the coming days and weeks, we will be announcing additional executive actions that confront these challenges and deliver on the president-elect’s promises to the American people,” Ms Psaki said.
Further actions would include revoking the ban on military service by transgender Americans, and reversing a policy that blocks US funding for programs overseas linked to abortion.
On the economic front, Mr Biden asked the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to extend a moratorium on evictions until the end of March, and the Department of Education to suspend student loan payments until the end of September.